Saturday, 10 August 2013

How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea by Mira Grant

Lowdown: Newsflesh goes Down Under.
Regular readers of my blogs would know I have had a personal affair with Mira Grant (a pen name for author Seanan McGuire) and that I had somewhat of a rollercoaster ride reading her Newsflesh trilogy of books, Feed, Deadline and Blackout. Now, on the heels of the famous trilogy, comes How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea: a follow-up novella (less than 2000 Kindle units long) taking place after the core trilogy’s timeline, but not much after, and told to us in first person by Mahir Gowda. Oh, and in case you were wondering why I’m picking on this particular tale, the whole affair takes place in zombie infested Australia.
We join Mahir, now the boss after the Masons left the scene, aboard his flight to Melbourne (hooray!). Through lengthy proceedings we learn of the setup: Australia’s way for dealing with zombies was unconventional. It uses its old Rabbit Proof Fence to trap the core of the zombie marsupials on one side, while the humans live a relatively open life - when compared to the USA and the UK - on the other. Mahir lands, joins his local blogger crew, and sets forth to an adventure by the fence. Oh, there are no adequate explanations as to how Aussies pushed the zombies all the way up from, say, Sydney, to the fence that's thousand of kilometers away. But let us not digress.
First and foremost, I would say How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea is a tourism ad for Australia. It clearly uses Australia’s unique position in the real world to tell a tale of walls and the human condition in a zombie infested world in order to send a message back to the real world. And that’s great! Obviously, as a migrant who chose to live here I can sympathize with the “praise Australia” mood of the story. Even if I think it’s grossly unbalanced, given the rampant xenophobia on display at the Land of Plenty, with the current federal election campaign focusing on which of the two main parties can be crueller towards incoming refugees. Under that particular light, How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea looks way too fantastic; then again, it is a tale of a zombie uprising, so I’ll shut up and move on.
By far the biggest problem with How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea is that not much is happening. At the risk of blooping I will report there are no non zombie casualties here; indeed, the whole story is very slowly told. You’d find yourself deep inside the book by the time Gowda lands in Australia! I think it is obvious this slowness is intentional: Gowda is no adventurer, and his detailed but overlong reporting style is supposed to characterize him. I will argue, though, that I found myself detracted, wishing things would get a move on. But for a very short burst at the end, they simply don’t.
Overall: If one judges books by their ability to captivate, then one would judge How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea very poorly. However, this one’s got brains; I’ll be generous and give it 3 out of 5 stars, for old times’ sake.


Uri said...

stupid google ate my comment.

Now what did I want to say?

I didn’t read this one, but I have read two others (since they were nominated for Hugos), and they were ok, but I think I’ve had enough of zombies for at least a couple of years.

And did you know that Grant/McGuire is nominated for three Hugos in fiction categories this year (for four works)? Also one for related work, I think.

Moshe Reuveni said...

I agree with "stupid Google".
On the more constructive side, I can honestly say there aren't many zombies in Green/Blue. They certainly don't take center stage. As in, they do, but there's not much of the "zombie surprise attack" and other usual elements of the genre. It is more of a story of fences and people.